Around Christmas-time, a couple years ago, young Yeezus was in crisis. After an icy slating from the critics at Paris Fashion Week in September 2011 Kanye was frantically preparing for his second season of fashion shows. Sadly; his dark, twisted fantasy of astrakhan, black velvet and goth-karts throttling along the runway of La Halle Freyssinet was, once again, anointed a failure by the style press. He hasn’t shown another collection since.
“Why do you think this song Niggas in Paris is called Niggas in Paris? Because niggas was in Paris! Because I had a office and a small courtyard across the street from Colette - where I couldn’t even find a good pattern cutter - that’s why we were in Paris!”
Ever since, Kanye has seemed haunted by his failure; or, rather, by what he sees as a series of slights and betrayals from the grand old continental fashion houses, which he brings up time and time again in interviews, towards ever-spiralling peaks of intensity. The likes of Hedi Slimane and Marc Jacobs appear to have attained the status of near-mythical adversaries in Yeezy’s very own The Devil wears LV. Like so many artists, he has allowed himself to become consumed by the obsessive pursuit of beauty. “Watch the Throne all started with this one chandelier…” recalls the rapper, “we looked up and there it was.” An ornate Givenchy chandelier! A short while afterwards Riccardo Tisci was hired to design the album art. And today the dream of sophistication’s slowly melting, intermingling with reality; Kanye living in a 19th-century Parisian apartment, surrounded by Swiss art journals and Le Corbusier lamps, Kim floating around in Dries Van Noten.
“I know he’s very serious about this - I don’t take it as a joke - but how can I imagine him being my intern? It’s a very extreme situation.” Raf Simons
After the Taylor Swift incident in 2009 Kanye disappeared to Tokyo, and then Italy; “I ended up moving to Rome and I was interning at Fendi, and really every day going to work, walking to work, getting cappuccinos.” It was an apprenticeship of wonder, but also of frustrated creativity. “Me and Virgil are in Rome,” he recently recounted on Radio 1, “giving designs to Fendi, over and over, and getting our designs knocked down… brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said ‘no!’ How many motherfuckers you done seen with a leather jogging pant?” Obviously Kanye thought that his ideas were underappreciated and so, intern no more, he took a chance on his own ready-to-wear collections, shown at the spring/summer 12 and autumn/winter 12 shows. Both were roundly mocked by an unforgiving fashion industry. The season afterwards Yeezy shut down his label (quietly, like Alan Partridge having his book pulped), and chose to attend the Paris shows instead. Among others, he requested one of those elusive tickets to the first ever showing of Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane…
“It’s been like that now for a minute, Hedi Slimane! It’s been like that now for a minute. We the rock stars, and I’m the biggest of all of them!"
“This song was made after Hedi Slimane didn’t let me into his first Saint Laurent show,” says Kanye, returning to a rejection that clearly hurts him still. I’ve been turned down for fashion week tickets, too - it sucks - but I’ve never bounced back with as much style as Yeezy: “So, off of that, I went into the studio with the producers [Daft Punk!] that made the music for his show and made I Am a God.” The song was played for the first time, live, at the impossibly exclusive Met Ball in New York, to celebrate the opening of Punk: Chaos to Couture… really it was the only punk thing about the whole sorry affair. And, even more, I Am a God includes surely the best lyric about Parisian fashion heartbreak that will ever be written:
“Hurry up with my damn croissants!”
“We want to sing Louis Vuitton, we want to sing on a Gucci level, we want to sing as high as we could when we had pyramids… We don’t want to just have the jewellery, just trying to make us feel good. We want to be good. That’s creation, that’s passion!”
Yeezus says he’s a god-like force of creativity, and I’m utterly relaxed about that; I can’t think of anyone more important to the last 10 years of pop culture. If, sometimes, he comes across as completely crackers, it’s only because he’s so frustrated, and really I understand Kanye’s frustration! When you want something so much, and you’re not allowed a chance. When all you want is to make something beautiful, and no one’s even interested. This Christmas, in magical snowy Paris, I’d love to see Kanye start making fashion again.